Sermons

pastorEric aug2014Sermon for Christmas Day

For You
By The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer -

The Christmas marathon is almost over. Sam, Max and so many others have survived seven services over three days. It was been wonderful and exhausting and everything in between.

We pastors, we tend to do a trip on ourselves at Christmas. With so many visitors, here at Mt. Olive nearly two-thirds of our Christmas worship attendances are non-members, with so many visitors we want everything to be, well, perfect.

And that, of course, goes for our sermons, too. We want to share words of hope and comfort and invitation. Words that we so moving those visiting might even return!

So, I was relieved to hear this advice this week from a preacher I really respect: keep it simple.

Keep it simple. Why? Because the Christmas message itself is pretty simple and it is simply this: God came from heaven to take on our human form to show us just how much God loves us.

That is pretty much it.

Well, of course there is more, but that’s pretty much the core. When God surveyed humanity and realized how dark and difficult our days could be, how confused we get about our identity and place, how many painful things we do to each other out of that confusion and insecurity, God saw all of this and God decided to do something about it.

And so after giving the law and sending the prophets, God got involved, personally and intimately. God got involved with God’s fallen creation.

What is especially wonderful is that, when God decided to get personally involved, God did not come to punish, or frighten, or scold, or threaten, or any of the other things that are often attributed to God, sometimes even by people in the church. Instead, God came to tell us that we are loved, deeply, truly, and forever.

Song of the AngelsAnd just to make sure we got the point, God first brought that message, embodied in the flesh by Jesus, God first brought that message to people the world was pretty sure were not particularly important or, for that matter, loved: no account shepherds, an unwed teenage mom, astrologers practicing a whole different religion. All of this just to show that God wasn’t going to leave anyone behind. To show that God’s message of love was for all. As in everyone, whether the world thought you were important or lovable or not.

And that is still the way it is. God loves all of us, but especially wants those who do not feel loved or lovable, those who regularly feel like they are on the outside looking in, those who feel forgotten, even those who wonder what the point of life is, God wants us all to hear the “good news of great joy” that God loves all of us.

Which is why today I, too, will to keep it simple. Because after all the shopping and cleaning and cooking and preparing, after all the trying to make ends meet, keeping a distraught family intact, struggling to get a job, or worrying about a loved one serving overseas - After all the stuff that makes our lives kind of crazy, I think the short, simple, and peaceful word that we are of infinite value and worth to God is perhaps just the simple word we need to hear this Christmas day.

God came from heaven to take on our human form to show us just how much God loves us, to say that we, you and I, are worthy of honor and dignity and love.

And, if we want to put it all in even fewer words we do not have to look any further than the words of the angels that first Christmas: FOR YOU. When Jesus is born the angels not only sing of Jesus’ birth, the angels say, “Jesus is born for you.” And they do not just share “good news,” in general, but share “good news of great joy for you and all people.”

For you: For while the Good News of Jesus Christ is never a private word, it is nevertheless a very personal word, reminding each and every one of us that God believes we are worthy of honor and dignity and, above all else, love.

God came from heaven to take on our human form to show us just how much God loves us, to say that we, you and I, are worthy of honor and dignity and love.

God came in Jesus Christ that first Christmas for you.

Amen.

 

(With thanks again to the Rev. Dr. David Lose).

The Rev. Eric Christopher Shafer
Senior Pastor - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
Dec. 25, 2017


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